by Richard Pastore

From The Editor: Why We Fear Knowledge Management

Dec 01, 20033 mins
Enterprise Applications

I’m one of your IT business analysts. I work with the sales function of our company. I helped create a business case template for the sales execs, and I coach them in its use. You, my boss, come and ask me to document the procedures I follow, including all my business case best practices. It’s for the new knowledge management system.

By midnight that night, I’ll have nine copies of my rŽsumŽ circulating among our competitors.

Knowledge management spooks people, especially in this environment of jobless recovery.

On top of that, knowledge management is condescending. You have a system to “manage” your employees’ knowledge? What’s next?mapping their most efficient commuting route? Selecting their work wardrobe for optimum color coordination?

Negative reactions are one reason people shouldn’t call knowledge management “knowledge management”?a tip you’ll find in “Why Three Heads Are Better Than One (How to Create a Know-It-All Company),” Page 94. The label inspires fear and loathing in the people whose support you most need. But euphemisms aren’t going to cut it either. Don’t dare call it an “intellectual capital resource pool.” (You know what kids do in pools.)

If you really want people to freely share their knowledge, it needs to be abundantly clear that doing so will benefit them personally?not just the company. For example, an overworked programmer would personally appreciate the shortcut of grabbing code from a reusable library, rather than having to rewrite it every time it’s needed. So there’s a huge personal convenience for sharing such code.

This same motivation applies to many sorts of knowledge?procedures, documents, rules. Employees who contribute and borrow from the knowledge base will save time and energy, avoid stress, and look good because of their valuable contributions to the company (be sure to credit the source of the knowledge).

So I’ll gladly store my business case template for any analyst to use with his own business functions. We can even store some text that generally ends up in these cases, saving time for everyone?including myself. I won’t feel threatened, since my unique value will continue to be in how I interact with the sales execs as I walk them through creating a case?the sympathy I have for their frustration over metrics, the instinct I have for how specific they need to get in quantifying hard and soft benefits. That human stuff doesn’t lend itself to knowledge management?to extract it, you’d have to reproduce my genetic code. And you can get arrested for that.

Richard Pastore, Deputy Editor